April Fools' Day: 18 Greatest Sports Pranks of All Time

Marilee GallagherContributor IIApril 1, 2012

April Fools' Day: 18 Greatest Sports Pranks of All Time

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    BREAKING NEWS: Indianapolis Colts announce they will be drafting Robert Griffin III and not Andrew Luck first overall in the 2012 NFL draft.

    BREAKING NEWS: In a shocking move, Kobe Bryant, announces his immediate retirement from the NBA in order to pursue a career as an NBA Analyst.

    BREAKING NEWS: It is reported that Kansas player Thomas Robinson has been linked to steroid use, making him ineligible to play in the NCAA Tournament. As a result, Ohio State and not Kansas will be facing Kentucky in the national championship game.

    BREAKING NEWS: Despite injury concerns, the Philadelphia Phillies announced this morning that they have signed 2B Chase Utley to a six-year, $60 million extension.

    BREAKING NEWS: Brett Favre is un-retiring and the Green Bay Packers have announced he will be their starting quarterback in...OK, I can't even finish that one with a straight face. If the others didn't get you, that one certainly would. April Fools'!

    The above false headlines are all April Fools' jokes obviously, but compared to some of the pranks orchestrated by sports personalities and teams alike over the year, these statements are nothing, especially since the sports world has always been center stage when it comes to pulling off pranks.

    In honor of this national day of pranking, whether on April 1 or not, here are some of the best pranks that have been pulled off over the years in the world of sports.

2012 Media Reports: Don't Believe Everything You Read

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    In an example of how everyone gets involved in the April Fools' Day jokes, sports media personalities and local bloggers are not strangers to riling up fans through stories that almost seem too good to be true. Now, there is no guarantee any of these stories are false, but since today is the 1st, I warn for anyone who chooses to read sports news online to take caution and, on today of all days, don't necessarily believe everything you read.

    1. Derek Jeter traded to the Mets: Sports satirists like to joke that Derek Jeter is the object of trade discussion and this year was no different. On the website for the magazine Complex, it was reported this morning that Jeter was traded to the Mets after admitting via Twitter that he slept with Brian Cashman's stalker.

    The key to this one: Derek Jeter isn't even on Twitter. Well, that and the ludicrousness that he'd be going to the Mets—let's just say it's laughable. Nevertheless, the post must have garnered some attention as "Was Derek Jeter traded?" instantly became a top search on Google.

     

    2. Ken Rosenthal breaks news of Cole Hamels: It certainly wasn't what Phillies fans wanted to wake up to when Rosenthal tweeted this: "Almost a done deal: Cole Hamels to , get Michael Young and Ian Kinsler."

    The key to this one: Rosenthal's tweet must have garnered some backlash because it has since been removed from his account page. For the brief period it was up there however, some Phillies fans believed it to be true and hit to their own Twitter accounts to express outrage or, in some cases, excitement.

    Either way, Rosenthal presented a situation that could actually be possible and would work for both teams, so believe-ability even in a practical joke was certainly there.

18. Kyle Orton Signs His Own Helmet

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    Rookie initiations are just a part of sports. In baseball, the bullpen rookie is often forced to carry the supplies in a pink back-pack. For the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow received his initiation by getting a "Friar Tim" haircut, and for Kyle Orton, he was brought into the Chicago Bears team by a prank that saw him signing his own helmet.

    In 2005, Olin Kreutz, one of Orton's then0teammates, asked the rookie if he could sign a helmet for Kreutz's family, who were apparently big fans of the rookie QB. Orton gladly obliged by signing the helmet, only to find out later that the helmet signed was in fact his own helmet and one that he was forced to wear to practice the next day. Talk about embarrassing...

17. The Undefeated Plainfield Teacher's College Football Team

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    In a prank pulled off fooling a nationally recognized newspaper, the New York Times captured the story of the undefeated football team from Plainfield Teacher's College. Sounds like a good story to tell. The only problem was that Plainfield Teacher's College didn't exist.

    The calculated ruse held up for six weeks as Morris Newburger, the author of the piece under the alias of Jerry Croyden, created a fictional legendary QB without any weaknesses and paid close attention to each meticulous detail about the team, including detailing the "W" formation that helped the team preserve a perfect record.

    The beauty to this prank was not only did it fool the New York Times, which published the stories every week, but it also fooled college football fans across the country as the prank went so far as to report that the Plainfield Comets would be challenging to compete in a bowl game as their winning streak continued.

16. The Prank That Gabe Pruitt Will Forever Remember

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    Some pranks are just fun jokes pulled against teammates, but in the case of this and other rivalry pranks, only one side was laughing in the end.

    Her name was Victoria. She was beautiful, she was funny and, most importantly, she was fake.

    In a prank set up by a few UC Berkeley fans, they created an online dating profile for a girl named Victoria and then used the profile to begin chatting with USC star player Gabe Pruitt. Pruitt instantly fell for the girl and they made plans to meet face-to-face after he returned home from the game. Unfortunately for Pruitt, however, the UC Berkeley fans had other plans as they began chanting "Victoria" along with Pruitt's phone number during the game. Pruitt was humiliated and had a poor game as USC lost. 

15. Charles Barkley's Real/Fake Interview

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    This prank was turrible, just downright turrible.

    Well, it was terrible if you were Barkley and completely unaware that you were being punked for a fake interview, and by your teammate no less.

    In this clip, Barkley is part of an interview with a Japanese actor, who is quoted as being "Japan's version of Bob Costas." In the interview, the "reporter" asks questions that don't make sense and at one point even prompts Barkley to volunteer his services to the 1992 Japanese Olympic team for the small fee of $5 million.

14. Deion Sanders Is Snake-Bitten

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    It was certainly prime time for Mel Hall and Davey Johnson as they pulled one over on this NFL great. In the prank, Deion Sanders' dining companions convince him there is time to have a roll. Unknown to Sanders, however, the basket in the middle of the table does not contain rolls but rather something much funnier.

13. Why Give a Steak When You Can Have a Cow?

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    After losing a bet to then-manager Lou Piniella, who was the victor after Ken Griffey, Jr. failed to hit a home run to left, center and right field in just three pitches, Griffey had to pay up by buying his manager a steak dinner.

    Well, Griffey did one better and the next day a live cow showed up in Piniella's office.

12. Lucy Liu, Where Are You?

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    The Lakers really like to prank their rookies, but none have been as bad as when a few of Tony Bobbitt's teammates decided to take a comment made by the rookie and turn in into a huge practical joke.

    It all started when Bobbitt told his teammates during a game in Denver that Lucy Liu was looking at him during the game and that she totally had the hots for him.

    Taking advantage of this, Bobbitt's teammates decided to send one of the ball boys over to Bobbitt with a note that supposedly had Liu's phone number on it. To keep the joke going, they even had a woman who worked for the team record a message on the voicemail of the fake number, pretending to be Lui.

    The prank continued until Bobbitt was supposed to meet Liu for dinner. Unfortunately for him, however, instead of meeting Lucy Lui, he was simply met by his laughing teammates, who definitely managed to pull one over on him.

11. Stanford Gets Revenge for "The Play"

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    I'm sure I don't have to recount the memory of the 1982 rivalry game between Stanford and California in which the Bears used five laterals as the clock wound down to score the upset win over Stanford and trample the band, which took to the field prematurely in celebration, in the process.

    After much deliberation by officials, the play was ruled good and Cal got the victory. A few days later, however, Stanford got its revenge as it replaced Cal's college newspaper, The Daily Californian, with its own version in which the front page headline explained that the NCAA overruled the play and changed to give Stanford and not California the victory.

    The paper was complete with fake quotes from an NCAA official and a story detailing the breakdown of Cal's coach upon hearing the news.

10. Pete Carroll Arrests One of His Own Players

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    Pete Carroll is quite the prankster. On several occasions he was part of or an instigator in a joke pulled off against one of the players he coached. This one prank in particular—done on April Fools' Day, no less—had Carroll's squad believing that one of the teammates, Everson Griffen, was being arrested for physically abusing a freshman.

    Griffen denied it, but Carroll got the police involved and said he had evidence. At one of the practices he played the so-called evidence, which turned out to be a tape of Griffen laying down a hard hit on a teammate during a practice.

9. Mark Cuban Beats Up a Referee

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    Mark Cuban has long been basketball's bad boy. As an owner he has been fined more money than most of us will make in our lives and has even been given technical fouls in response to antics.

    For this April Fools' Day prank, Cuban decided to hire a fake referee and stage a hockey-style brawl with the man. After the ref made a call, Cuban walked onto the court and started taunting him. He pushed the ref twice and the ref pushed back, landing him and Cuban in a fight. Mavs players and head coach, unaware of the joke, pulled Cuban off the ref, who proceeded to throw him out of the game.

    The best part about this prank is that Cuban's track record made it more than believable that he would actually tangle with a referee. 

8. Create a Baby with Olympic-Winning Genes

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    Build your own Olympian was the story of this April Fools' Day prank from cycling magazine Velonews, when it announced the creation of a new company by U.S. Olympians Connie Carpenter and David Phinney that sold the sperm and/or egg of these two stars for $250,000 apiece (or the option to combine both for $1 million) in order to create the ideal champion baby.

    Felix Magowan, the fictional spokesman of the company, was quoted as saying any couples who want champion children would find them at Olympic Genes. The company was of course an April Fools' joke, but many gullible readers didn't know that at first as they believed the company really existed.

7. Orlando Magic Trade Dwight Howard and Then Prank Fans

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    On April 1, 2009, the Orlando Magic pulled a double duty prank on their fans.

    It all began with the announcement that star center Dwight Howard had been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and that former Magic All-Star Penny Hardaway was coming back to join the team.

    Although this fake trade was quickly debunked, the Magic weren't done with their April Fools' Day fun.

    Later that night at the game, the Magic pulled off the well-documented, half-court shot for $100,000. This prank started by CollegeHumor.com involves an unsuspecting person to attempt the shot and a crowd that has been let in on the joke. 

    When Dan shoots the ball, he misses badly, but he doesn't know that because the fans are instructed to cheer wildly as if he just made it. Dan is so excited to runs around the court. He is eventually told about the prank, and one would think that is where it ends.

    Wrong.

    In a little bit of a reversal and unseen in video, it turns out Dan is an actor. When he is asked what he will do with the money, Dan talks of being recently laid off, obviously making all in the crowd feel like jerks for tricking him. That is clear by the collective "aw" you hear in the video. It isn't until later that Dan is revealed to be an actor so for most of the game, Magic fans think they were in on the joke when really it was a "gotcha" moment as the joke was on them.

6. Harvard Says: "We Suck"

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    The prank itself was not really that original, but the pre-planning of it makes this Yale prank over Harvard one of the best college pranks of all time.

    In order to pull this off, 24 Yale students dressed up and claimed to represent the non-existent Harvard Pep Squad. They distributed 1,800 signs to Harvard supporters and told them the sign would spell out "Go Harvard."

    Well Harvard fans bought it hook line and sinker and as a result ended up holding up a sign for all Yale fans and national media to see that said "We Suck."

    Pure genius by Yale.

5. Lendale White Ends It All

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    Lendale White decided to orchestrate a prank against his USC teammates with the involvement, of course, of Pete Carroll and a few of the other coaches.

    White got into a heated argument with Carroll and then-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin over the lack of touches he received in practice. The fight turned into an intense and heated shouting match that ended with White walking off the field much to the surprise of his teammates.

    The prank continued as some of White's teammates questioned the coaching staff about what happened, yielding responses from Carroll himself that the team was willing to go on and that it would win without White.

    The prank continued until White appeared on top of a building overlooking the field. He was going to jump. One of his teammates went up to stop him and the two jostled back and forth until the teammate pushed White of the building.

    His teammates and coaches were horrified until they noticed White hit the ground and subsequently lost his head. It was then revealed it was a dummy that was thrown off the roof and not White himself.

4. The Great Rose Bowl Switcheroo

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    I detailed the prank pulled off by Yale students over Harvard in an earlier slide, but it is worth noting that without the Rose Bowl prank, the inspiration for that prank would have never existed.

    In 1961, Cal Tech students after learning of the halftime performance planned by the University of Washington, set out to change the flip card stunt that the team had orchestrated. In order to do this, the 14 students had to alter the 2,232 instruction cards so that the entire Washington fan section would be duped into holding up cards that were not the original ones for the stunt.

    They stole the instruction sheet, printed modified copies and replaced them with the originals.

    On game day, the first 11 card stunts played out as planned to lure the crowd into a false sense of security. Alterations to the 12th card set had the Washington Husky looking a lot like the Cal Tech beaver. The next stunt had the word Huskies appear spelled backwards, something that was written off as a mistake.

    Finally, the 14th stunt spelled out "CALTECH," and it all made sense, casting silence upon the stadium for a few moments. Everyone in the crowd was laughing except the Washington cheerleaders, who wisely decided to cancel the 15th and final stunt.

3. Sidd Finch Prepares to Play for the Mets

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    His name was Hayden "Sidd" Finch. He was a prospect in the Mets minor league system that boasted a 168 MPH fastball. He had a bit of an unorthodox style to his game, but all the Mets fans cared about was that he had huge potential.

    The story of Finch was published as the Sports Illustrated cover story. It detailed the boy's life, how he learned to pitch and his decision to pursue a career in baseball or music.

    Unfortunately for Mets fans, who seem to be the butt of many a joke these days, Finch was not real and all of their hopes for the franchise revolving around him disappeared as quickly as they came. The curious case of Sidd Finch once shrouded in mystery was solved and it certainly did not yield the results Mets fans were expecting.

    Even though the story was known as fact for only a few days, this April Fools' Day prank is considered by most as one of the biggest nationwide hoaxes ever, as the entire country was captivated by the story of this baseball phenom.

2. Billy Donovan Has Got Butter Fingers

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    It was a moment that University Florida basketball players from their first ever national championship-winning team will likely never forget.

    Coach Billy Donovan holds the trophy up high as fans and students cheer wildly, but then all of a sudden everything goes wrong and the trophy falls to the ground and shatters. Everyone is stunned until Donovan announces it as a Friday the 13th prank. He gestures everyone to look to a screen, which depicts the actual trophy, safe and enclosed in a glass case.

    The reason this prank is so funny? Well, just look at the faces of the Gators who worked hard to earn that trophy. Devastation and shock clearly it say it all.

1. Japan Says Konichiwa to Kyle Kendrick

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    Young Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick received the shock of a lifetime when he was informed by manager Charlie Manuel that he had been traded to a Japanese team in return for a player named Kobayashi.

    Kendrick, who stayed pretty calm all things considering, had no idea that this trade was all part of a huge prank started by teammate Brett Myers that involved both Manuel and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. as well as Kendrick's Phillies teammates. There were even fake, but very official looking documents detailing the trade.

    CSN Philly also seemed to be in on the joke as it interviewed Amaro and Kendrick about the trade. The surprised Kendrick was at a loss for words when finally Myers announced that he had been punked, pointing out that he was traded for a hot dog eater in Kobayashi.

    As far as practical jokes go, this one had all of the elements and truly is one of the best pranks ever pulled in the world of sports.